Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Faster localisation of flu outbreaks with Google?

Adelina Marini, April 30, 2009

Today will become clear whether the EU will ban all trips to Mexico because of the swine flu. This is what the EU ministers of health will have to decide on their extraordinary session in Luxembourg. Before that the commissioner for health issues Androulla Vassiliou met with European vaccine manufacturers. In the meantime, the most popular search engine Google has offered and experimental mechanism for localisation of flu outbreaks around the world.

In November 2008 the company presented a Google flu trends for the US after a very close relation was found out between how many people search flu-related topics and how many people actually had flu symptoms. Thus, the creators of the mechanism expect that flu outbreaks could be located much more easily than with the current systems and much faster because Google could make the trend in near to real time.

With regard to the current danger of swine flu pandemic, the company has presented after a request from health authorities, the trends in Mexico city and some other Mexico states. The increase of flu-related searches has increased in the week 19-25 April. Of course, Google remind that this method is still experimental.